Best rugged and durable earbuds & IEMs that last

Powered by the Slant Community & A.I.

Powered by the Community & A.I.

Sean Searle
Daniel Menelkir
Jack
Owen Winkler
T-R
UpvotesFreely
Stuart Kearney
Endi Sukaj
Ryan
Andris Pelcbergs
Theodore Lief Gannon
20 contributors
Up to date as of
After considering 13 earphones, the Slant community recommends Shure SE215 for the best sound quality and durability under $100, Sennheiser IE80 for audiophile-grade sound and VJJB V1 V1S for the budget pick. These recommendations are the result of hundreds of contributions from the Slant community.
92
Slant Score

Best under $100

Shure SE215

These Shure earphones offer the best sound quality and durability combination under $100 on the market.

Available on Amazon
Available on Amazon
Impedance
17 Ω
Connector
mini-phone stereo 3.5 mm
Frequency range
22Hz - 17.5kHz
Sound pressure level
107 dB
Cable length
1.6 m
Sound quality
Durability
Comfort
Sound isolation

Outstanding build quality for the price

SE215 earbuds use tough plastic earpiece shells, have a robust kevlar-reinforced cable, a sturdy Y-splitter that's difficult to bend and an L-shaped plug that adds additional strain relief. They won't break if you snag them, drop them or sit on them. They're also completely sweat proof so you can use them while working out without having to worry about damaging them. They're durable enough for professional stage use which they were specifically designed for.

Full sound

An overall full sounding pair of earphones. Bass is emphasized to give a bit of a thump while remaining well controlled. Mids are rich; highs avoid sibilance, though they're a bit rolled off. Soundstage is okay--instruments are separated out enough for them to not sound like they're all coming from the same place, but it's not particularly wide.

Amazing isolation via memory eartips

Memory eartips mold to your ear to provide amazing sound isolation, though there's a bit of a learning curve to using them. You have to press them together before putting them in and then allow them to expand in your ear. Once expanded they will take the shape of your ear and that way provide excellent noise isolation.

The earphones also come with silicon tips if you prefer not to use the memory tips, but with silicone tips you're giving up the great sound isolation.

Comfortable once you get used to them

The SE215 earphones have a negative profile, optimized nozzle angle, over-ear fit and memory eartips that ensure the earphones stay in place comfortably regardless of situation. You can even lie with them on your side comfortably due to their shallow profile.

However, it may take some getting used to memory cables and there's a bit of a learning curve to putting the earphones in with memory eartips. At first memory cables may seem a bit stiff, but after they're broken in, they're generally more comfortable than typical wires. There's even a wire sleeve that helps form the wire bundled with the earphones to help combat this issue. As for memory eartips--every time before putting them in your ear you have to press them together and then allow them to expand in your ear.

Other things to note

A version with a microphone and inline controls costs $30 more, while replacing the detachable cables will set you back another $25. Another nitpick is that the earphones have a chunky L-shaped connector that might not fit in some smartphones with cases.

BarretP
April 3, 2016

I usually lean towards Shure when I need a new set of in-ear headphones (not that often as they last so long). The build quality of these are always outstanding, plus they are more comfortable than most thanks to the conforming tips. For the price I wish they came with an inline mic, but hey, at least there is a cord available that contains one.

91
Slant Score

Best under $250

Sennheiser IE80

IE80s are one of Sennheiser's flagship earphones that offer audiophile-grade sound quality along with excellent durability and comfort. At this price point, these earphones stand head and shoulders above the rest.

Available on Amazon
Available on Amazon
Impedance
16 Ω
Connector
mini-phone stereo 3.5 mm
Frequency range
10Hz - 20kHz
Sound pressure level
125 dB
Cable length
1.2 m
Sound quality
Durability
Comfort
Sound isolation

Audiophile-grade sound quality

The main reason to get the IE80 is the excellent soundstage that you won't get with cheaper earbuds. The soundstage is wide and balanced with instruments clearly separated, allowing you to easily identify their position. It creates a very immersive sound.

The sound signature is great overall with clarity across all ranges. Highs are loud and clear without sibilance. Mids are rich. The bass is slightly emphasized to add more dynamics to the sound, though it does bleed slightly into the midrange. Also, if you wish to make the bass really powerful you have the ability to turn it up even more with a dial on the side of the buds.

Built to last

IE80 earbuds use high-quality kevlar-reinforced cables with a thick rubber strain relief and the earpiece shells have brushed metal plating. A strong connector holds detachable cables in place. Additional strain relief is added by the L-shaped plug. These earphones are built to last and if there are any issues with them, there's a 2 year warranty.

Comfortable for extended periods of time

IE80 earbuds aren't fatiguing and stay in your ear confidently. While they're designed to be worn over-ear, under-ear cable routing works as well. They're also low profile enough that you can lie on your side with them.

Solid noise isolation

Once you pick the eartips that best fit you, the isolation is solid overall with double flange eartips offering the best isolation followed by other foam eartips and then silicon eartips.

Expensive

While these are among the cheapest audiophile-grade earphones, they're still priced at $250. It's a serious investment. And for many, just not worth it.

Other things to note

If you need to replace the cables, they retail for about $20.

128bpm
October 28, 2016

Great sound on these, used to be pretty expensive but you can now find them a bit cheaper. The range itself is fantastic with a good separation of instruments. While I am not a giant audiophile, the quality of the sound is noticeable, even for an amateur. The replaceable cables are also a nice touch too. They won’t be the first pair where the cable splits I’m sure, but at least I can do something about it without purchasing a new pair altogether.

77
Slant Score

Best budget earbuds

VJJB V1 V1S

Earphones with durability and sound quality not present in any similarly priced earphones.

Available on Amazon
Available on Amazon
Impedance
8 Ω
Connector
mini-phone stereo 3.5 mm
Frequency range
20Hz - 24kHz
Sound pressure level
110 dB
Cable length
1.2 m
Sound quality
Durability
Comfort
Sound isolation

Great sound for the price

An overall balanced sound with slightly emphasized bass. It's not thumping bass, but it's not anemic either and it doesn't bleed into other ranges. Mids and highs are clear with no sibilance. There's close to no distortion in any of the frequencies. Even the soundstage is fair for the price--while it's still rather cramped, the instruments are separated out enough for them to not sound like they're all coming from the same place. It's a sound quality that's typically present in earphones that are in twice as expensive.

Great durability as long as you don't need water resistance

V1S earphones have a metal housing, strong rubber wires and a durable rubber stress relief to make sure that the earbuds last. The only minor gripes are that the earphones use an I-shaped plug which isn't ideal for stress relief and they aren't sweat or water resistant.

Comfortable for everyday use

The earbuds are light and small with an angled nozzle, fitting most ears comfortably. It's comfortable to wear both over and under-ear. Unfortunately, while they're reliable enough to stay in the ear when you're a bit more active (such as while running), they tend to slightly move around in your ear regardless of chosen eartips. This can be distracting.

Some cable noise is present

Cable movement will result in unwanted audio signal that can interfere with the listening experience on lower volumes.

Other things to note

With the eartips that fit best for you, the isolation is solid and there are six different pairs of eartips to choose from. It has a mic and in-line controls and comes bundled with a carrying case and a carrying pouch.

Annerry
September 13, 2016

These would just be another disposable pair with a cheap price, but man the sound on these is so far above their low price range. Seriously, these cost under $30 and sound better than a pair of $60 headphones.

What others are saying

Here are some of the best reviews from around the web on earphones.

How they compare

When picking the best earphone for you, the Slant community thinks you should consider the following criteria: Sound quality, Durability, and Comfort.
Sound quality
Whether you prefer the most accurate representation of the original production or you'd rather certain ranges get emphasized and others dampened to make the sound more dynamic, is wholly up to you. However, you should still be able to clearly pick out different sounds in your music, such as vocals, cymbals, bass, etc., regardless of your preferences. And with really good earphones, you should be able to get some space inbetween those sounds.
    • The Shure earbuds have a slightly emphasized bass to make the sound a bit more lively. The bass is controlled and doesn't interfere with other ranges. Mids are rich. Highs avoid sibilance; however they lack a bit of brightness. There's clarity across all ranges.

    • Soundstage is okay. Sound sources don't blur together, there's noticeable separation between instruments, though it's not particularly wide - you won't quite be able to tell where each sound is coming from positionally, but it won't sound like they're all coming from the same place either.

      • IE80 earbuds have a soundstage that's unlike anything at this price point. It's wide enough to allow you to clearly identify the location of each sound creating an exceptionally immersive sound.

      • Highs are loud and clear without sibilance. Mids are rich and there's clarity across all ranges.

      • Bass is adjustable via a small dial on the side of the buds. The earbuds come with a tool that helps you turn the dial. It's punchy on the lowest setting and skull rocking on the highest settings.

      • Bass is clear, punchy and has a kick to it that adds more color to the sound. Unfortunately, it tends to seep into mids slightly. In the vast majority of cases it's not noticeable, but it can get in the way on tracks where there's less of a frequency gap between bass and vocals than usual.
      • A balanced sound with a light bass boost that makes it a bit more dynamic without it bleeding over into other ranges. The bass is not overly emphasized, but it's not weak either. Mids and highs are clear with no sibilance.

      • Distortion is close to non-existent which at this price point is very rare.

      • The soundstage is rather small, but it still manages to avoid cramping all sounds in one place. There's clear separation between instruments even if overall the sound is not that spacious.

      • There's some microphonics present. They can drowned out at higher volumes, but can be annoying at lower volumes.
    Sound quality Specs
    Shure SE215
    Sennheiser IE80
    VJJB V1 V1S
    Impedance
    The wattage needed to output certain volume levels. A high impedance requires more power to output volume from the earphones, so low impendance earphones (<100 Ω) should be used with MP3 players or laptops whereas high impendances fit high-quality headphone amplifiers.
    17 Ω
    16 Ω
    8 Ω
    Shure SE215
    17 Ω
    Sennheiser IE80
    16 Ω
    VJJB V1 V1S
    8 Ω
    Frequency range
    The range of pitches that the headphones can produce. Humans can hear between 20 Hz - 20kHz. The more of that range a headphone can reproduce the better.
    22Hz - 17.5kHz
    10Hz - 20kHz
    20Hz - 24kHz
    Shure SE215
    22Hz - 17.5kHz
    Sennheiser IE80
    10Hz - 20kHz
    VJJB V1 V1S
    20Hz - 24kHz
    Sound pressure level
    SPL shows how loud earphones can get. 90 dB is comparable to a truck while 120 dB is the threshold of discomfort.
    107 dB
    125 dB
    110 dB
    Shure SE215
    107 dB
    Sennheiser IE80
    125 dB
    VJJB V1 V1S
    110 dB
    Durability
    A good earphone will use cables encased in thick rubber, shell cases made of either durable plastic or metal, and connectors that help relieve the strain when you pull the wires.
      • Kevlar-reinforced thick rubber wires, rugged shells, a solid Y-splitter, as well as a robust strain relief and an L-shaped plug that further helps with strain protects the headphones in a wide variety of situations.

      • Sweat and water resistance allows them to be used in the gym and rain safely.

        • The Sennheiser earphones are built to last. Kevlar-reinforced wires, a high quality rubber strain relief, an L-shaped plug and shells with a metal plating ensure that they can survive a lot of abuse.

        • In case anything happens to the earbuds, there's a 2 year warranty.

          • These earbuds have a metal shell, thick rubber cables, and a thick rubber stress relief. They're built to survive getting snagged, being dropped and getting stuff accidentally thrown on them
          • The earbud plug is I-shaped which relieves stress a bit less ideally than an L-shaped plug. The difference, however, is rather minor and shouldn't even be that noticeable.

          • Unfortunately, the earbuds aren't water or sweat resistant. You should avoid using them in the rain or at the gym.

        Durability Specs
        Shure SE215
        Sennheiser IE80
        VJJB V1 V1S
        Water/sweat resistance
        Resistance to water and sweat for use in the rain, at the gym, etc.
        Yes
        No
        No
        Shure SE215
        Yes
        Sennheiser IE80
        No
        VJJB V1 V1S
        No
        Comfort
        A good pair of earphones should stay in your ear reliably for hours without causing any discomfort. With some you can even comfortably sleep.
          • The SE215 earphones have a negative profile, optimized nozzle angle, over-ear fit and memory eartips that ensure the earphones stay in place comfortably regardless of situation. You can even lie with them on your side comfortably due to their shallow profile.
          • It takes a while to break in the memory cables. While they take their shape, the earphones may be a bit uncomfortable. There's even a wire sheath that can be used to help the wire take the correct shape.

          • If you use the memory eartips instead of the silicon eartips, they may require some getting used to. They mold to your ears, but that process takes a up to a minute every time you put them in your ear.

          • These earbuds can be worn for extended periods of time reliably and comfortably. Their light weight and the nozzle that's angled just means they're not fatiguing at all.

          • You can easily lie with these earphones on your side due to their shallow profile.

          • Though they're primarily meant to be worn over the ear, it's possible to have the cable route under the ear as well.

            • Due to their small size and comfortably angled nozzle the earbuds should stay in most people's ears pleasantly and reliably. And because they're light they're not fatiguing and can be worn comfortably for extended periods of time.

            *These earbuds can be worn both with the cable going over the ear and under the ear.

            • When you're active (when running for example) the headphones tend to move ever so slightly in your ear which might be distracting.
          Comfort Specs
          Shure SE215
          Sennheiser IE80
          VJJB V1 V1S
          Cable length
          The length of the cable.
          1.6 m
          1.2 m
          1.2 m
          Shure SE215
          1.6 m
          Sennheiser IE80
          1.2 m
          VJJB V1 V1S
          1.2 m
          Weight
          The weight of the earbuds.
          30 g
          5 g
          15 g
          Shure SE215
          30 g
          Sennheiser IE80
          5 g
          VJJB V1 V1S
          15 g
          Water/sweat resistance
          Resistance to water and sweat for use in the rain, at the gym, etc.
          Yes
          No
          No
          Shure SE215
          Yes
          Sennheiser IE80
          No
          VJJB V1 V1S
          No
          Eartips
          The type of eartips offered.
          Memory and silicone
          Silicone (variable flange)
          Silicone (variable flange), foam
          Shure SE215
          Memory and silicone
          Sennheiser IE80
          Silicone (variable flange)
          VJJB V1 V1S
          Silicone (variable flange), foam
          Sound isolation
          How much outside noise you hear depends mainly on your choice of eartips. The better the seal the less sound will bleed through.
            • Memory eartips mold to your ear to provide outstanding sound isolation.

            • The earphones also come with silicon tips if you prefer not to use the memory tips, but with silicone tips you're giving up the great sound isolation.

            • Memory eartips have a slight learning curve to them. You have to press them together before putting them in and then allow them to expand in your ear. Once expanded they will take the shape of your ear and that way provide excellent noise isolation.
            • The body of the earbuds along with the right choice of eartips will provide a good enough seal to lock most of the outside noise out. While you'll still be able to hear the louder noises out on the street, the isolation will definitely limit your awareness of the world.

            • With the choice of eartips you can customize how much isolation you need. Double flange eartips offering the best isolation followed by other foam eartips and then silicon eartips.

              • Earbuds come bundled with 6 different pairs of eartips. Once you find the one that best fits you the isolation is good. It doesn't completely lock you out of the real world - you will still be aware of your surroundings, but those surroundings won't interfere with your music.
              Sound isolation Specs
              Shure SE215
              Sennheiser IE80
              VJJB V1 V1S
              Eartips
              The type of eartips offered.
              Memory and silicone
              Silicone (variable flange)
              Silicone (variable flange), foam
              Shure SE215
              Memory and silicone
              Sennheiser IE80
              Silicone (variable flange)
              VJJB V1 V1S
              Silicone (variable flange), foam
              Other Specs
              Specs
              Shure SE215
              Sennheiser IE80
              VJJB V1 V1S
              Connector
              The type of input used.
              mini-phone stereo 3.5 mm
              mini-phone stereo 3.5 mm
              mini-phone stereo 3.5 mm
              Shure SE215
              mini-phone stereo 3.5 mm
              Sennheiser IE80
              mini-phone stereo 3.5 mm
              VJJB V1 V1S
              mini-phone stereo 3.5 mm
              Other accessories
              Other accessories that come with the purchase of the product.
              3 foam sleeves, 3 soft flex sleeves, carrying case
              2 earhooks, 5 pairs of ear tips (variable size and shape), cable clip, cleaning tool, protective case
              Cable clip, carrying case, 4 pairs of ear tips, soft bag
              Shure SE215
              3 foam sleeves, 3 soft flex sleeves, carrying case
              Sennheiser IE80
              2 earhooks, 5 pairs of ear tips (variable size and shape), cable clip, cleaning tool, protective case
              VJJB V1 V1S
              Cable clip, carrying case, 4 pairs of ear tips, soft bag
              Warranty
              The warranty length of the product.
              2 years
              2 years
              1 year
              Shure SE215
              2 years
              Sennheiser IE80
              2 years
              VJJB V1 V1S
              1 year
              92
              Slant Score
              92
              Slant Score
              Best under $100
              Shure SE215
              Available on Amazon
              91
              Slant Score
              91
              Slant Score
              Best under $250
              Sennheiser IE80
              Available on Amazon
              77
              Slant Score
              77
              Slant Score
              Best budget earbuds
              VJJB V1 V1S
              Available on Amazon
              Other products we considered
              Check some of the 13 other products our community recommends.
              Community Discussion
              Have a question about picking the the best earphone? Ask Sean Searle, Daniel Menelkir and the 18 other Slant community enthusiasts that contributed to this guide.
              What's the difference between Earbuds and IEMs?

              The difference is how they sit in your ear. Earbuds sit on your outer ear while IEMs (in-ear monitors) can be inserted into your ear canal. As a result, IEMs offer better sound isolation, while the earbuds are a bit easier to put in and take out of your ear.

              Ryan's avatar
              Ryan
              Shouldn't the "flat" earphone be the best sounding one?

              There are two ways to interpret "flat": as a flat frequency response or the most true to production representation.

              In the first case, there's a difference in how our ears hear instruments when they're at a distance and how it hears them when they're played right in your ear. A flat frequency response would simply sound "wrong" - the source of different sounds would be off. See head-related transfer function for more details.

              In the second, there are earphones that aim to recreate the end result as close as possible to the original production and some people do in fact prefer that. Yet, for most, slight boosts and cuts to specific frequencies make the sound more accentuated. Most people actually find a "flat" sound boring.

              Aubrey's avatar
              Aubrey
              Are you a earphone enthusiast?
              Join in with the Slant community to improve and discuss this guide.
              Welcome to the Slant Community
              Stop spending hours researching
              Slant is written by a community helping you be informed. Let us know what you’re passionate about to get an awesome personalized feed.